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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(3 star). Show all reviews
on November 6, 2013
In a nutshell here's why I didn't give it the full five stars:

1) Didn't seem to cover much new ground past what I had read in the selfish gene by Sir Richard Dawkins. 2) At times seemed sort of inadvertently sexist, i.e. so much has changed in the world since this book was written. Some of the assumptions we had about men and women just aren't so anymore. 3) As another reviewer noted, it is hard to tell if the research in this book is still current.

And here's why I gave it three stars

1) Writing style is easy to read. This does not read like a dry boring textbook, it reads more like pop psyche. It was fun to read.
2) As a period piece, it was interesting to see the assumptions people used to make about male / female relationships.
3) The information itself is thought provoking and interesting.

If you've already read the Selfish Gene and liked it, I would say you could pass on this. If you couldn't plow through the Selfish Gene because it was dry, I RECOMMEND this book as more enjoyable. If you've never read the Selfish Gene, I would say read this one first and then if you are craving more, go back for the Dawkins book, which covers more genetics and less social science than this one.
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on June 30, 2006
I'd seen this book referenced too many times to count, but never picked it up until recently. However, I was disappointed with it in comparison to Ridley's others (Agile Gene, and Genome). Although he seems to dazzle people with evolutionary psychology (Just as Miller does in The Mating Mind, Wright does in Moral Animal, and Buss does in his books), Ridley falls into the same Evo Psyche troubles as the others listed above do.
1) They're blinded by the stereotypical ancestral habitat and because of that refuse to acknowledge how the sexes adapt, and how malleable sexual preferences are. By stating first that selection pressure can change the hierarchy of the sexes in a matter of a few generations (Ridley, Miller, others), but then assume that because such changes didn't happen frequently in OUR ancestry men and women are trapped in their gender roles (Women seeking status, men seeking looks), completely reduces our adaptability, and evolutionary change in general to something insignificant.
2) They avoid addressing the power of the environment when addressing the anomalies in their theories, too focused on the power of the gene, and less on influence of the meme (i.e. celibacy, altruism, etc.)

Other peculiarities with Ridley in particular, is his frequent habit to give up in the face of opposing ideas. This not only applies to the Red Queen, but his other books as well. He'll often list 2, 3, or 4 different views and then admit that he has no idea of how to resolve them either. And because of this he often comes off as a journalist rather than a scientist (he is the editor of a magazine, maybe that's why). So, although his books are informative, they're also devoid of insight.
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on February 18, 2013
Ridley sets out to discover those traits and behaviors that are distinctly, uniquely, and universally human. The reference to the Red Queen is the recurring vehicle for his search, and sex is the reference point for his evolutionary study. Lacking, however, is a careful and systematic summary of his conclusions about human nature; there is a sort of throwaway list at the end of the book.
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on September 17, 2014
A very good book but drags from about the time they start to talk about aphids and plants. I skipped until ch 6 or 7 when he started to discuss humans again (which was my reason for reading it) and it is there that the book really shines.

Hardline gender-ideologues won't like the book because it shatters the "blank slate" theory (basically that males and females are born almost exactly identical, psychologically, and only culture makes us different) and observes some uncomfortable truths about both men and women. Just read some of the 1-star reviews and you'll see that it is politics driving their opinions, rather than science.
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on November 28, 2001
Because of the title, I was expecting a lot more discussion on human nature in this book.
The first half of the book focused on how sex and gender differences developped at all. Examples were given from various animals, but rarely was there a discussion on humans.
The second half of the book was almost entirely about humans and gave evolutionary examples for why humans act the way we do. This half of the book was EXCEPTIONAL, and I could hardly put it down. This half of the book should be required reading for anyone attempting to better understand human behavior.
Please let me know if this review is helpful. Thank you.
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on May 14, 2004
One of the mysteries that I've been struggling with for the past few years is why so many people engage in extramarital affairs. If most people agree that it's wrong to break marriage vows, why do so many people do it. Another way of looking at the question is by asking why we are so obsessed with sex that it overcomes our better judgment.
Although I don't agree with everything in Mr. Ridley's book, it adds a dimension to the debate that I hadn't really considered, which is that almost all human behavior is driven by sexual urges and reproduction at an evolutionary level. The behaviors that lead to successful reproduction are likely to be passed to later generations, while the only trait that cannot be passed along is abstinence. From this model, people will engage in all kinds of seemingly irrational behavior when doing so is biologically advantageous.
My fundamental distress with this premise is that it diminishes the value of human reason, which is something that evolved through generations just as much as the biological drive to reproduce. While Mr. Ridley premise is that one of the main values of being smart is that it allows the brainy people to outwit their sexual competitors, I get depressed when I think of us as essentially no more than reproductive machines.
Mr. Ridley writes a good story that adds some nice twists to understanding human behavior. The writing did not move as quickly as I would have hoped, and some of the details about other species' sexual behavior dragged at times, but I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for explanations for behaviors that might not otherwise make sense.
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on June 28, 2010
Used for my Human Sexual Behavior Class. Interesting ideas but ultimately drags on. I only had to read a few chapters for class so it wasn't extended suffering. And when the year was finished, I found myself not wanting to sell it back. One of the few texts from college I'll keep.
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on February 15, 2015
Bought for a school course.
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on June 29, 2011
Perhaps I had expectations for this book which were not met. Still, I was hoping for a more readable book and ended up trying to decipher his dry style. Although there were some interesting points made, his conjectures were hit and miss and I couldn't make it all the way through the book. Not a good to read for a layman.
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on October 15, 2007
The book has some interesting ideas, but could probably be summarized in about half the number of pages.
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